Decolonization is a global project: From Palestine to the Americas

Editorial by Linda Tabar & Chandni Desa, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society, Vol. 6, No. 1

This special issue brings Palestine into conversation with Settler Colonial Studies, Critical Indigenous Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, other critical scholarship and political practices. In doing so, we write in opposition to the way in which Palestine is often taken up and framed in the mainstream media and academic scholarship. In 1948, the Zionist settler colonization of Palestine culminated in the mass eviction of the overwhelming majority of the indigenous Palestinian people (over 800,000 people) who were expelled from their homes and forcefully dispossessed from their lands. They were unable to return and became refugees as Zionist militias attacked and destroyed villages, towns and cities across Palestine. Palestinians have termed this the al-Nakba (catastrophe) which signifies the theft and loss of their land and the establishment of the Israeli settler colonial state. During the 1967 war, what was left of historic Palestine (Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza) became occupied by Israel. Palestine remains colonized as the Israeli state continues to militarily occupy and confiscate Palestinian land to build colonies for Jewish settlers, while exercising routine violence through massacres, bombings, mass incarceration, targeted assassinations, restricted movement, home demolitions, sexual violence, and implementing racist apartheid policies that fragments the Palestinian population into Bantustans.

In writing about the ongoing settler colonization of Palestine, we start by recognizing our locations on the traditional territories of the Huron Wendat, Haudenosaunee, the Seneca and most recently the Mississaugas of the Credit River, and the waters that sustain life on these stolen lands. In contending with this positionality, we recognize that our locations are required by the Canadian settler state to maintain its settler project and as such it actively solicits our identification and participation in the ongoing colonization and erasure of Indigenous people. In this issue we also draw attention to some of the histories of forced movement and displacement that underlie our presence on these lands, and the ways our location in this settler state can be disrupted and transformed through alliances and relations of solidarity. Specifically, these traditional territories have been a central site in which Palestinians and their allies have advanced global solidarity with the indigenous Palestinian struggle, while simultaneously expressing solidarity and building ties with Indigenous peoples from Six Nations, Tyendinaga, and across Turtle Island (Krebs and Olwan, 2012, Juma’ 2007). Mike Krebs and Dana Olwan (2012) and others document this distinct local history of connecting the struggles against the settler colonial states of Canada and Israel, which we and some of the contributors in this special issue have been part of building for over a decade. This history is significant because Palestinians and their allies on these territories were building these relationships at a time when both of these Indigenous struggles were hardly recognized, well before the time of reconciliation (in Canada), and the popularization of the global solidarity movement with Palestine. This history of connection has produced its own conversations, political analysis, critiques, tensions, and praxis, which this issue is both informed by and seeks to consolidate and take forward.

These ongoing political relationships center and are rooted in a responsibility to decolonial struggles on these lands, what Steven Salaita in his contribution in this special issue calls an “ethical imperative” which he reissues to the Palestine solidarity movement. Political intimacies (Lowe, 2015) between the Palestinian liberation struggle, Indigenous movements and other struggles are not new. Salaita reminds us that “dialogue between Natives and Palestinians goes back at least half a century” and suggests “the first substantive interchange occurred during the heyday of the American Indian Movement [AIM], when Native activists, like their Black Panther peers, looked to global liberation struggles for inspiration and solidarity, proffering both to anti-colonial movements in return” (2017, para 25). What is significant here is the way that such past and present relationships have disrupted and work against settler categories and imaginaries that have configured the native as always ‘disappeared’ or ‘defeated’, which has at times precluded solidarity across these geographies. This is not to deny that solidarity is difficult and that at times there have been tensions when forging ties between struggles (which have been written about by Amadahy, 2013; Bhandar & Ziadah, 2016; Kelley, 2016; Krebs & Olwan, 2012; Tabar, 2016), but we want to stress that by coming together through ethical responsibilities these movements also rupture the ideological structures, racial hierarchies and discourses of settler colonial states. Moreover, these settler colonial ideologies rationalize and sustain settler projects of land theft, ongoing genocide, and anti-black racism (rooted in the history of transatlantic slavery), and coercive labour regimes in a global geography, in which similar racial categories enable capitalist accumulation, exploitation, dispossession and white supremacy across different territories. Thus we and our contributors in this special issue emphasize and expand upon how creating ways of seeing across colonial ideologies and the racialized, sexualized logics that sanction dominance and state terror, is part of a necessary internationalist decolonial project to transform systems of power.

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